Jump to content
Penguinball

Best (and Worst) Writing Advice?

Recommended Posts

What is the single piece of writing advice that has helped and stuck with you? The first thing you would share with a new writer? Mine is below. And bonus round - What is your least useful piece of advise? What is something someone told you about writing that you wish you could unhear?

Good advice - This is a compound one with a couple parts, and its taken me a long time to take to heart. Like, I knew on a surface level that this advice is true, but its taken YEARS to accept it.

A) Your first draft will suck. EVERYONE's first draft will suck. Some will suck less than others, but the first draft is rough, its awkward, and THAT'S OKAY.
B) You are ALLOWED to suck. Don't be discouraged while writing because it isn't flowing out of your pen/fingers as amazing, perfect prose. That is an unrealistic expectation to hold yourself to, and the sooner you realize that sucking is okay, the sooner you will get better at sucking less.
C) Just because something sucks now, doesn't mean it sucks forever. That's what editing is for! Even the roughest, more awkwardly written story can be massaged into something great. It is all part of the process. Don't despair and throw writing away because it is currently not that great.

smile Just keep writing through the suck smile

Bad advice - I have a lot less of this, but reading Stephen King's On Writing, he kind of talked about his process like it was the BEST way (particularly writing a draft in a short amount of time as possible with little planning). Everyone has things that don't work for them, so putting forth advice as Law really bugs me.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, what a fun couple of questions! I absolutely agree with you on the sucking part. So many new writers think that if they can't produce something awesome on their first try, they can't write. Writing fiction is totally hard, and it takes a long time to learn. Being a beginner at anything starts with bad attempts and mistakes, and I'm glad you brought that up, because it's extra true in writing. :) 

There are a lot of good advice out there. But my best piece of advice is:

Finish it.  Especially if you're into longer stuff, like longer short stories, novellas or novels. I could go as far as to say finish it completely, because editing includes structural work, pacing and making choices, which are all swell things to learn for your next project. But just finishing a full first draft teaches you what kind of work is needed for a complete story, and you learn to identify your weak areas. 

Now, all advice doesn't work for everyone. It's just advice, which you can take or leave. But finishing and experiencing a full novel draft made me turn a huge corner in my writing, so it definitely worked well for me.

Bad advice, I don't know... I also have to say that writing a novel without an outline may work for some, like Stephen King, but from what I've seen those writers are rare in comparison to those who need an outline.

I do have a thing I wish I could unhear and it still sends shivers down my spine: The "Said is Dead"-thing. Yeah, I can't even... I would like to say that movement is dead itself now, but its victims are still out there, muttering, shouting, giggling and hissing their way through dialogue. So many misconceptions about dialogue tags made this a pretty sore subject, but no, "Said" is not dead. "Said" should just not be used all the time, everytime someone says something. But yeah, that's the advice of horror in my opinion. Fight me.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Pinchofmagic said:

I do have a thing I wish I could unhear and it still sends shivers down my spine: The "Said is Dead"-thing. Yeah, I can't even... I would like to say that movement is dead itself now, but its victims are still out there, muttering, shouting, giggling and hissing their way through dialogue. So many misconceptions about dialogue tags made this a pretty sore subject, but no, "Said" is not dead. "Said" should just not be used all the time, everytime someone says something. But yeah, that's the advice of horror in my opinion. Fight me.

"Said is dead!"

"Never use adverbs, ever! Any -ly word is the sign of a hack writer!"

Same people saying these things, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!? I think this is a symptom of people regurgitating writing advise without being experienced enough to hear what they are saying. I partially agree with the adverbs, too many of them does make a piece of writing seem weak, but you don't need to get rid of ALL of them, every time! Its become popular to dogpile on a writer at the first adverb, and that kind of thinking is just toxic.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, Penguinball said:

but you don't need to get rid of ALL of them, every time! Its become popular to dogpile on a writer at the first adverb, and that kind of thinking is just toxic.

I absolutely agree with that. Pratchett used adverbs in dialogue, and I don't even think about it in his books. They definitely have a place. The problem is when writers use tags for every line of dialogue, and that tag is an adverb. I've seen it more times than I wanna count, and it makes me wanna cry sad panda-tears. I can't read it. And I see that as a bad effect of the Said is Dead-movement. If they used "said" instead for every line, yeah, it would still be clunky and weird, but not as weird as a string of adverbs. Maybe it's me. I'm just an old fart who are used to reading adverb-rare books. 😄

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Writing advice is such a mixed bag! Like, I've seen people quote pieces of advice that they've heard before, but they don't explain it. Said isn't dead, but you don't want to constantly add dialogue tags. Leave some spots open, or go for descriptors sometimes. Adverbs aren't the enemy, just don't use them so liberally you're not showing anything. Showing isn't always better than telling, both of them have their place. Tropes and cliches can be fun, and don't always have to be avoided. Plot twists are fun but not everything has to be shocking. Killing your darlings doesn't mean cut everything you love out. Etc. Etc. Etc. I could go on, honestly.

But there's like. Goldmines of good advice out there, too.

I guess my personal favorites for each category would be...

Good:

  • Write what you love, especially in a first draft. If you start following down a path that you hate, scrap it and try again, until you find something you love. Even if it takes longer to finish, it's worth it to have a finished product that you want to refine into something better.
  • Don't delete things. Even if you cut it out of your story, save it somewhere. A document of "bloopers" or something. A description, a piece of dialogue, or something could come in handy later, and it's nice to have it on hand already.
  • If you really need to, don't be afraid to edit the last few paragraphs. Just don't let yourself get stuck editing the same chapter/scene over and over again, and get stuck forever. 
  • Personal favorite: If you're really stuck somewhere, change your formatting settings. Change your font to something wacky. Adjust the size or the color. Play with your page settings. 

Bad:

  • Don't use [x] beginning or [x] ending. I hate this advice. "Don't start your story with a description of the weather." But what if the rain is coming down in torrents as someone races away, clutching something important in their arms? "Don't end your story revealing it was all a dream." But what if the dream was important, in some way? Like for Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz. (Granted, I don't believe that it was really a dream per se in the books, but in the movie, given that there were no sequels, it was.) Anyway. I'm just not fond of this advice.

That's the big one. There are other smaller things I nitpick, but. That's the big one for me, the one that always makes me grumpy when I read it 😛

3 hours ago, Penguinball said:

Bad advice - I have a lot less of this, but reading Stephen King's On Writing, he kind of talked about his process like it was the BEST way (particularly writing a draft in a short amount of time as possible with little planning). Everyone has things that don't work for them, so putting forth advice as Law really bugs me.

I feel this. Writing is not accomplished in the same way by everyone, and I hate when articles and books talk like it is.

3 hours ago, Penguinball said:

A) Your first draft will suck. EVERYONE's first draft will suck. Some will suck less than others, but the first draft is rough, its awkward, and THAT'S OKAY.
B) You are ALLOWED to suck. Don't be discouraged while writing because it isn't flowing out of your pen/fingers as amazing, perfect prose. That is an unrealistic expectation to hold yourself to, and the sooner you realize that sucking is okay, the sooner you will get better at sucking less.
C) Just because something sucks now, doesn't mean it sucks forever. That's what editing is for! Even the roughest, more awkwardly written story can be massaged into something great. It is all part of the process. Don't despair and throw writing away because it is currently not that great.

I love this advice, and it's honestly probably the one Golden Rule of writing, imo 😛 but its so hard to take to heart!! I want to give myself leeway through the suck but... I'm still working on it. (Speaking as a chronic perfectionist :P) 

1 hour ago, Pinchofmagic said:

I do have a thing I wish I could unhear and it still sends shivers down my spine: The "Said is Dead"-thing. Yeah, I can't even... I would like to say that movement is dead itself now, but its victims are still out there, muttering, shouting, giggling and hissing their way through dialogue. So many misconceptions about dialogue tags made this a pretty sore subject, but no, "Said" is not dead. "Said" should just not be used all the time, everytime someone says something. But yeah, that's the advice of horror in my opinion. Fight me.

Ughhhhh I hated when this was going around. 

1 hour ago, Pinchofmagic said:

Finish it.  Especially if you're into longer stuff, like longer short stories, novellas or novels. I could go as far as to say finish it completely, because editing includes structural work, pacing and making choices, which are all swell things to learn for your next project. But just finishing a full first draft teaches you what kind of work is needed for a complete story, and you learn to identify your weak areas. 

Excellent advice and another one I have a hard time taking in myself XD

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The best advice I've seen is that writing is less about what you do wrong and more about what you do right. It doesn't need to be perfect, but if you can do some things really, really well, then you can find success. If you have a great character with a great voice and interesting conflicts, you'll find a lot of readers who don't care about the generic setting. That's not to say that you shouldn't try to make all aspects of the story as good as they can be, but readers will forgive/gloss over the imperfections if the overall story is good enough.

The worst advice I generally see is any advice that points to a book written in the past and says, if they did it, you can do it. I feel like the people giving that type of advice are often just trying to show how well-read they are, but more importantly I think they do a disservice to new writers. Writing has changed over the years. What readers are accustomed to and what publishers and agents are looking for has changed. Writing has evolved. I wouldn't recommend to someone that they include a prologue in their book that explains their world to the reader, no matter how much I liked Lord of the Rings. The standards of today are different than what they were in Tolkien's day. Writers need to understand what that their choices mean and how they will affect the reader, and this type of advice doesn't help in that regard. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, LivvyMoore said:

Excellent advice and another one I have a hard time taking in myself XD

Haha, you're not alone. I was a pantser who never finished anything for years and years, but I had a lot of fun with that. My first attempt to write a complete draft, I got some real throbbing headaches, it was a proper struggle. But once I had done it, it changed everything, that's why I put it as the best advice I ever got.

I loved the advice of writing what you love, because that love is gonna fuel you and make you wanna write, so yes, yes, yes to that. I so very much agree with the bad advice of "Don't start/end your book with X". My two absolute favourite beginnings of books I've read starts with weather. :)  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Penguinball said:

What is the single piece of writing advice that has helped and stuck with you? The first thing you would share with a new writer? Mine is below. And bonus round - What is your least useful piece of advise? What is something someone told you about writing that you wish you could unhear?

Hmm.

It's honestly hard to know what I would tell a new writer right off the bat, because I suppose it depends on what they're struggling with, like plot development or finishing stories or whatever. But one of the things that's really helped me is writing my ideas down in a journal, because even if I don't plan to use it right then, I can always go back to my journal and find it and see if I can use it in a future story. Keeping idea journals for the past like...ten years has been really valuable to me, not just because it means having a place where I can keep them but also because I honestly think it's one of the reasons I've been able to discipline myself to focusing on one story.

I mean, granted, over the last ten years there have been more stories than I'd care to admit that I didn't finish, but maybe that's a good thing, because who knows if I'd be where I am with Storms of Magic and Court of Shadows without that happening? Writing is one of those things where you have to try and try and try again until you get that one idea that you know you can do something with. It's trial and error. I have a lot of ideas that I've written down from finding them online and also just coming up with them on my own that I will probably never actually use in any stories, but at least they're there for me to look back at.

I don't know if I can think of least useful advice off the top of my head, necessarily - I mean, there's not much that's really stuck with me when it's come to my writing. Most of the people who've read my writing have been people on the internet, and a lot of them were just jerks and trolls (I mean, I say that now partially because I'm still bitter about how mean some of them were, even though the writing did deserve it. I suppose the good thing is that I can look back and actually agree about how terrible the writing was, but that doesn't mean they had to be so mean about it. There was one girl who actually used to troll my Livejournal and...I can't really remember exactly what she did but she was brutal enough that I made my journal friends only (meaning no one who wasn't on my friends list could read my posts) because of it. I still have to work on developing a thicker skin, honestly, but I feel like I've come a long ways in the last ten years when it comes to that.

I took a creative writing class during my...first? year of college, and the professor tried to tell me that I should be writing "realistic" fiction before writing fantasy, like modern day stuff. I was one of two people who wrote fantasy (I think the other person wrote horror, actually) in the class. Everyone else wrote poetry or more "realistic" stories so we were in the minority and I think she just had a very high set of standards. I didn't listen to her then and even though I understand WHY she was trying to tell me that's what I should be doing (or at least, I think I understand the reasoning), I still disagree with it. I've done well enough without writing "realistic" fiction first, and so have plenty of other people. They say to "write what you know," but as @LivvyMoore said, you should also write what you love. If I don't love the idea of writing stories that are more "realistic," why am I going to force myself to do it? That's boring, and my heart wouldn't be in it. I want to write what interests me.

I don't think there's anything that I wish I could unhear.

3 hours ago, LivvyMoore said:

Like for Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz. (Granted, I don't believe that it was really a dream per se in the books, but in the movie, given that there were no sequels, it was.)

Actually, it wasn't technically an "official" sequel, I don't think, but Disney did a sequel movie in the 80's called Return to Oz. 😛 I grew up watching it but I think it was also based on one of the sequel books. It's one of those movies where 9/10 times people usually react badly to it (with good reason) when mentioned because in the movie they essentially come THIS close to using...I think it was electric shock therapy...on Dorothy to try and get rid of any thoughts about Oz out of her mind, and there's some other creepy stuff that happens. But it's never bothered me (I'm apparently kind of weird, though). The full movie is up on Youtube if you wanna watch it here. (Wizard of Oz is also one of my favorite movies, though I never (I don't think) read the book all the way through and definitely never read the sequels, so I'm kind of a weirdo when it comes to most things related to it XD.) Return to Oz was at least slightly closer to the books from my understanding (at least as far as casting goes, since Dorothy was supposed to be like eight or nine years old and Judy Garland was sixteen (I believe) when she was cast and they had to tape down her breasts so she'd be "less developed" and could somehow still pass as a young kid. They also used some of the same characters from the books, like Ozma.)

5 hours ago, Pinchofmagic said:

Finish it.  Especially if you're into longer stuff, like longer short stories, novellas or novels. I could go as far as to say finish it completely, because editing includes structural work, pacing and making choices, which are all swell things to learn for your next project. But just finishing a full first draft teaches you what kind of work is needed for a complete story, and you learn to identify your weak areas. 

I absolutely agree with this, and can vouch from experience that it definitely helps with identifying your weak areas. My draft of Storms of Magic is a massive mess, with lots of plot holes and just...yeah. The first draft is basically just the bare bones of the final story (there's some quote I can't remember the exact words of or who said it but it basically says this). Writing the first draft of Storms of Magic proved to me that I CAN finish a novel length story, though. Somehow, over the last...three years, something just clicked in me and gave me the focus to be able to actually write a novel length story without losing focus or giving up or getting overwhelmed and frustrated. I mean, I still have that happening but it hasn't made me give up completely. I'm SO close to finishing the first draft of Court of Shadows, and I feel like I'm going to come out of this one feeling way better about it than I did with Storms of Magic, because I actually know where the story is going from start to end and am not waiting until I get to the part towards the end to figure it out and then half-ass it when I write that part like I did with Storms of Magic. So while it was awesome that I wrote that draft, I think working on Court of Shadows first and then re-approaching Storms of Magic and just rehashing it will really help, and I'll still have had the discipline of actually FINISHING a novel draft.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good advice:

This has taken me forever to internalise: Not everything you write will be The One True Novel!!!!! 

Related: practice is valid. Just because the writing you're doing isn't *for* anything doesn't make it pointless.

Corollary: practice can also sometimes feel boring, or hard. Practice is how you improve at stuff. (Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta-good at something!)

Writing will be hard sometimes, even if you really really love it. Fall in love with the process and the hard parts. Enjoy solving problems. (I agree with Pratchett who said that some people like the idea of having finished more than the actual writing.)

Bad/useless advice:

Usually anything taken out of context or applied to EVERYONE for ALL TIME. Style in writing changes. 

"Write what you know."

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Best advice:

From Chuck Wendig's blog: Finish your sh*t.  Also, writing is messy, imperfect, and doesn't always work.  Learn what you can from it and keep going.  His humorous and profanity laden posts have a lot of great practical advice.

Worst (unsolicited) advice:

You'll never be successful if you write XYZ.  People won't like your work if you don't include good values in the narrative.  

My own advice to newbies: 

Write what makes you excited to sit down and pound out words.  Whatever that is seek it out and don't stop until you've written your way through to the end.  You are your first audience, so make sure you're entertained, enraptured, and satisfied.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Best Advice

Keep everything you write. One day, it'll spark a new idea. I did this, and ended up writing a 100,000 words based on a short story I wrote when I was 15.

Worst Advice

Two fold

a) "LGBT characters should be characters first, gay second" - I've had this spouted at me constantly, as I write LGBT fiction. Usually by straight people, sometimes by misled LGBT people. The concept sounds fine on the surface, but usually it comes from someone objecting to an LGBT relationship in your work, which is what they define as "LGBT First" : The mention they're gay at all. It's usually followed up with "we don't need to know their sexuality! It shouldn't come up!" All it does is push young LGBT writers into feeling they have to suppress their need to be out and proud in their writing. Real people mention their sexuality, real people get into relationships. Hell, most of the heterosexual work ever written is motivated by romance. Avenging the dead lover is a popular cliche in every genre. But apparently when you're LGBT, you're not allowed romances.

b) "Don't use tropes". Usually from people who don't understand what a trope is. A trope is a building block of a plot. Sometimes overused with no originality. But unless you're writing a blank page, good luck avoiding tropes.

  • Like 3
  • Nice! 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Jedi Knight Muse said:

Writing the first draft of Storms of Magic proved to me that I CAN finish a novel length story, though. Somehow, over the last...three years, something just clicked in me and gave me the focus to be able to actually write a novel length story without losing focus or giving up or getting overwhelmed and frustrated.

This. This is absolutely one of the big benefits of finishing something. Writing is often such a slow process, and a novel is so big, that for the longest time it seems impossible. Just having done it once makes a lot of difference. Here's where I think NaNo was really helpful for me, because staying with the same project for a whole month and getting those 50k words was incredible for someone who used to jumped from idea to idea like she was on a pogo-stick. 

Ugh, your professor telling you to write realistic fiction when your heart was in fantasy, that's so depressing. If I couldn't write fantasy I don't know if I'd wanna write at all. I definitely wouldn't have as much fun. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, TricksterShi said:

From Chuck Wendig's blog: Finish your sh*t.  Also, writing is messy, imperfect, and doesn't always work.  Learn what you can from it and keep going.  His humorous and profanity laden posts have a lot of great practical advice.

I love his advice. I have a whole list of links to his old blog-posts with more practical craft advice (I could maybe put that up under resources unless his language is a  problem). These days it seems he's more into motivational writing-posts so one has to go back pretty far for the practical stuff as he's bad at tagging. Also, his "The Kick-Ass Writer" book is just that: A kick in the a** to just get on with it. But yeah, his language is NSFW, especially on the blog. But so funny. :)

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good advice that has helped me:

  • Find out what works for you. It seems so trivial, but with many things there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, and with writing you simply have to find out what resonates with you - the right way is the one that works for the individual writer.
  • Keep a notebook. Starting a writer's notebook was a task in an online writing course I did, and I found it silly at the time. But I tried it nevertheless, and it turned out to be one of the best things I have done. Writing down ideas made me more creative, and once I started it, I had more ideas than before. Frequently, more ideas kept coming while I was writing an idea down, and keeping those raw, unfinished plot seeds turned out to be a real treasure. Several projects I'm working on are based on ideas I combined with older plot seeds from my notebook.

Bad advice:

  • lol, literally every writing advice by Stephen King that I have come across, and Penguin was dead-on with putting the reason into words:
21 hours ago, Penguinball said:

Bad advice - I have a lot less of this, but reading Stephen King's On Writing, he kind of talked about his process like it was the BEST way (particularly writing a draft in a short amount of time as possible with little planning). Everyone has things that don't work for them, so putting forth advice as Law really bugs me. 

See, Mr. King, different things work for different people. And when I heard you say keeping a notebook was the best way to immortalize bad ideas, I felt offended. Maybe playing around with ideas and combining them simply isn't your thing, and that's fine - but please stop dissing authors who have a writing process different from your own. :classic_rolleyes:

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, XanthussMarduk said:

b) "Don't use tropes". Usually from people who don't understand what a trope is. A trope is a building block of a plot. Sometimes overused with no originality. But unless you're writing a blank page, good luck avoiding tropes.

:classic_rolleyes: This goes along with the fear (usually from newer writers) of using cliches. Everything is cliche. Everything has been done. There's no such thing as a 1,000% original story these days. Every time someone says "how can I avoid making this cliche" I say "don't worry about making it not cliche, think about how you can give it your own twist." Also, cliches and tropes WORK. That's WHY they exist, it's WHY there are so many books with them. That's how you create a story. It's when you take a bunch of cliches and jumble them together into one story and don't try to make any of them different that there's usually a problem.

So, for example: granted, I never finished reading the book, but a lot of people hate on Eragon. It was written by a young kid whose parents were publishers, and it was basically (again, I didn't finish the book but I did see the movie) a rehash of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Based on the movie alone, I would say that there was no real effort to make it any different from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but I honestly can't fully judge it because of having not read the books. I did start to read the first book, and I remember the uncle's death...and it was loads different from what they did in the movie. But the fact remains that it was the uncle's death that essentially sends Eragon onto his adventure, just like with Luke and his aunt and uncle, but so what? It's a trope because it works. 

I'm not exactly not guilty of using cliches and tropes or whatever. My current project

Spoiler

has a long lost fairy prince who's under a spell, he doesn't have his memories for the majority of the story, he (slooowly) falls in love with the female main character who is human and has magic and some kind of a destiny, his family was murdered by the wild fairy who put him under the spell. Um...what else? I have a loner/mercenary-type who has his own bit of a tragic past (not terribly tragic but tragic enough) and secrets of his own. Oh, I have dragons, too, that have a magical connection to the rulers of each of the fairy courts.

And those are honestly just what I can think of off the top of my head. I'm really not that worried about using "too many" cliches or tropes, as long as I use enough that it at least balances things out and makes an interesting story. The reason the stories with all these cliches are popular and done over and over again is because the readers are interested in them. I'm not expecting my book(s) to be best sellers, especially if I go the self-publishing route, but I'm not really writing any of these things just to try and write a best seller at this point.

4 hours ago, Pinchofmagic said:

Ugh, your professor telling you to write realistic fiction when your heart was in fantasy, that's so depressing. If I couldn't write fantasy I don't know if I'd wanna write at all. I definitely wouldn't have as much fun. 🙂

Yeah, I was not too impressed with her when she told me that, let me tell you. But I wasn't brave enough to say what I really wanted to say (although I don't think I would say what I really wanted to say even now, either).

My aunt tried to tell me I should write "realistic" stories, but to be fair to her I was writing Star Wars fan fiction at the time (and for whatever reason thought it would be something I should talk with her about). She's in her 70's now and I was probably...12? I'm pretty sure she's never even seen Star Wars, so I think it was her just trying to be able to relate to what the heck I was writing about and be able to understand it. These days I think it's slightly easier for her to understand my stories (when I rarely share them with her, which isn't often), but I think she'd still rather have me writing something she could relate to more. I'm at the point where I've "been there, done that" as far as "realistic" things go- I mean, I had to write plenty of "realistic" things for school papers over the years, especially for the journalism class and the "club"/class I had to take for the school paper.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, XanthussMarduk said:

b) "Don't use tropes". Usually from people who don't understand what a trope is. A trope is a building block of a plot. Sometimes overused with no originality. But unless you're writing a blank page, good luck avoiding tropes.

I love tropes because they allow you to do things you couldn't otherwise do, which is to subvert them. Tropes represent a shared experience, one which we can use to manipulate the reader (in a good way). We can lead the reader to believe that something is going to happen a certain way based on a trope, then pull out the rug from under them. There is a risk with that though, in that some people might come to your story for the trope and be disappointed when you subvert it, and others might not last long enough to see the subversion if they are tired of that particular trope.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Best: Don't worry if your first draft isn't perfect. You can fix it later. 

(Admittedly, I still struggle with perfectionism when writing. That's the real reason I nominated this as the best advice, since it's the advice I need the most right now.)

Worst: People who pay attention to my writing (as well as my artwork) may notice that I have a lot of African or otherwise PoC characters. I've had people give me shit for this, and believe it or not, it's often (white) people who are supposedly more liberal/progressive in their politics. They tell me that writing PoC characters as often as I do makes me a "one-trick pony" or "monomaniacal" and that I should diversify my characters.

Ironically, the fact that I am a white dude myself probably aggravates this issue. I don't think any of these subtly racist cowards would dare give the same advice to writers of color.

  • Heartbroken 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That "advice" sucks, @Tyrannohotep - I wonder whether any writer who is only writing stories about white male characters has ever had to let others tell him it made them a one-trick pony.

More bad advice: Write every day. Well, I'm not sure if that advice is really that bad, but I simply haven't managed to write every day for more than a year. And reading that advice over and over again makes me feel bad about myself and my writing, so that piece of advice doesn't work for me right now.

  • Like 3
  • Agree 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, Manu said:

Write every day.

Oh my gosh I hate this advice. I totally forgot about it when I was writing my response… probably because I hate it so much 😂

I know it’s helpful for some people, but the people who say it often preach it like it’s gospel—and I’m just like: But I can’t do that. It’s not possible for me, and never has been. I don’t even write every day during NaNo!

1 hour ago, Tyrannohotep said:

They tell me that writing PoC characters as often as I do makes me a "one-trick pony" or "monomaniacal" and that I should diversify my characters.

Wow. That is. Wow. That’s really all I have to say about that. What terrible advice.

@Jedi Knight Muse I couldn’t find a specific place to quote from because there was lots of good stuff, but! On the topic of realistic writing, my go to response has always been—I get enough of reality in the day to day. When I pick up a book or go to write, I want somewhere to escape to properly—somewhere new and different with exciting things that don’t happen IRL. 

7 hours ago, Pinchofmagic said:

If I couldn't write fantasy I don't know if I'd wanna write at all. I definitely wouldn't have as much fun. 🙂

I FEEL THIS. Any school assignment that involved creative writing that wouldn’t let you write Fantasy sucked all the joy and energy right out of me xD My parents (and friends) would be like “Oh, you should enjoy this!” And I’m just like. No. It took a while for me to really articulate why, though. Because I love to write, but it’s not exactly the act of writing that brings me joy, but what I’m writing. And I lose a lot of my favorite things writing outside of fantasy xD

13 hours ago, XanthussMarduk said:

a) "LGBT characters should be characters first, gay second"

I have never considered this before. (Referring to the whole paragraph, not just the quoted part, of course xD) When I read that piece of advice I always took it as, “make sure they’re not just a stereotype.” I hadn’t really thought about the rest of it, but that’s a really good point!! 

 

17 hours ago, Jedi Knight Muse said:

Actually, it wasn't technically an "official" sequel, I don't think, but Disney did a sequel movie in the 80's called Return to Oz.

Oooooh, Okay, I had never heard of this before!!! Probably because of the near shock therapy scene, actually, lol. As for the books, I have no idea how close any of that was, because I’ve only read one other Oz book, and that was the one where they found Ozma. (I really liked it, but I don’t know what happened to my copy! Donated to the library, probably.)

I had heard the stuff about what they did to the Judy Garland though—her life was pretty tragic, from everything I read. Oz was just the start of it 😞 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Pinchofmagic said:

I love his advice. I have a whole list of links to his old blog-posts with more practical craft advice (I could maybe put that up under resources unless his language is a  problem). These days it seems he's more into motivational writing-posts so one has to go back pretty far for the practical stuff as he's bad at tagging. Also, his "The Kick-Ass Writer" book is just that: A kick in the a** to just get on with it. But yeah, his language is NSFW, especially on the blog. But so funny. 🙂

I recently finished reading his "Damn Fine Story" book on narrative and it was chock full of great deconstructions of how and why they work using examples like Star Wars and Die Hard.  Definitely a good book to keep on the shelf.  And he always puts his older practical writing lists for sale around NaNo in a bundle of 10 e-books, I think, usually for just $10, so that's good to watch out for, too.  😄 

  • Nice! 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

16 hours ago, Manu said:

More bad advice: Write every day. Well, I'm not sure if that advice is really that bad, but I simply haven't managed to write every day for more than a year. And reading that advice over and over again makes me feel bad about myself and my writing, so that piece of advice doesn't work for me right now.

Yes, that advice really put a lot of unnecessary pressure on people. Writing is not only typing. Thinking about the story, if only in the back of our heads, can be a really important part of the process. And even if I do write pretty much everyday I always go to bed feeling I should have written way more, or better, or finished that editing... So, even following that advice won't stop me from feeling sucky about what I produce. I also think getting burned out can be a real possibility with this advice.  

  • Like 1
  • Agree 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/7/2019 at 1:39 PM, LivvyMoore said:

Oooooh, Okay, I had never heard of this before!!! Probably because of the near shock therapy scene, actually, lol. As for the books, I have no idea how close any of that was, because I’ve only read one other Oz book, and that was the one where they found Ozma. (I really liked it, but I don’t know what happened to my copy! Donated to the library, probably.)

I had heard the stuff about what they did to the Judy Garland though—her life was pretty tragic, from everything I read. Oz was just the start of it 😞 

Haha, probably. Like I said, 9/10 times whenever that movie is brought up to me, people say "oh my God that movie terrified me." And the electric shock thing isn't even the only creepy thing they had in that movie. (You don't have to watch the whole movie but this scene basically has the "hall of heads"- Princess Mombie basically got to take over the Emerald City after the Scarecrow was taken to the Gnome King's mountain. The Gnome King turned everyone else in Oz to stone and Mombie used this magical Powder of Life stuff to steal the heads of dancing women...

...I'm making it sound WAY scarier than it actually is with that description, haha. There's a lot more context besides that.) I'm pretty sure that the book you read is basically at least one of the books that this movie is based off of, 'cause that's what happens in this movie - Ozma was trapped in a mirror by Mombie, and she's able to return thanks to Dorothy.

It really was 😞 Have you ever listened to the cut scene of the Over the Rainbow reprise? They don't show footage but they have the recording of it on youtube and she sounds SO SAD. She just POURS her emotions into it and it's so heartbreaking. (Incidentally, my town's community theater performed Wizard of Oz last February and, being that it's my favorite movie, I went to see it, by myself. They kept the reprise of Over the Rainbow AND the Jitterbug dance, which was actually really cool to see. When I was a kid, I used to watch the movie on VHS and it had behind the scenes footage and I remember watching the Jitterbug dance, so seeing it performed on stage like that was awesome for me.) I haven't read a ton up on Judy (at least, not recently enough to really remember anything off the top of my head), but I feel like her life was already going downhill before Oz, because she was in show business from a pretty young age with her sisters, and I THINK she'd been having drugs shoved down her throat for a long time both before and definitely after Oz. It makes me wonder how different things could have been if she hadn't had so much trouble with that and she hadn't been put under so much pressure. She was so young when she died. 😞 My mom was a kid and I remember her telling me that she cried when she heard on the radio that Judy had died.

Haha, I'm bringing this topic off quite the tangent, sorry. XD Like I said, Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie so I could ramble about it for...a long time, haha.

And if you want to talk about actresses with tragic lives, Lucille Ball is another one (my favorite old time show is I Love Lucy). Not quite as tragic, I don't think (it's been a long time since I read up on her, too) in the same way as Judy's, but her marriage to Desi Arnaz was not all that great (he was an asshole). Buuut, here's a cool trivia fact: Star Trek wouldn't exist without her. She convinced the studio to give the show a shot!

Okay, I swear I'm done rambling now. (Buuuut apparently I really enjoy talking about this stuff, haha.)

On 2/7/2019 at 1:17 PM, Manu said:

More bad advice: Write every day. Well, I'm not sure if that advice is really that bad, but I simply haven't managed to write every day for more than a year. And reading that advice over and over again makes me feel bad about myself and my writing, so that piece of advice doesn't work for me right now.

Ugh, I hate this advice, too. I actually thought that I had an anecdote related to this, but I went and found my post where I explained what happened and it turns out it wasn't about writing every day, it was about something else (which I'll explain below), but seriously. Maybe writing every day proves that you have some kind of discipline when it comes to focusing on your writing. So what if it does? Sometimes you just can't write every day. That doesn't make you a bad writer. For example, I haven't tried to really write anything since...Tuesday? Wednesday? Wednesday I think. Thursday and today (Friday) I was busy with family stuff. I'm now home and exhausted. Doesn't make me a bad writer for not wanting to write tonight, it just makes me someone who wants to write with a clearer brain when doing so. Don't feel bad about not writing every day. It works for some writers. Some writers are able to do so- they have the jobs that allow them to, or they're able to stay home and be full time writers, or whatever. Maybe they don't get burnt out when trying to write. That's okay for them, but that doesn't make you less of a writer for not being able to do it. I definitely do not write every day.

Okay, so this other thing that I remembered isn't actually advice, it's actually just...some online person with a stick up their ass who thought that they were the authority on writing and that they could talk down to me.

Background: this happened on an oooooold forum (in 2011) for writers that I ran a number of years ago, and I only know/remember some of the details because I wrote about it in my Livejournal when it happened, and I apparently made a vague post about it on Facebook which came up in my Timehop app on my phone.

So this is what the member of my old forum said in a discussion post:

"I don't care what strategy you use. But if you do not produce finished products that are polished and better than the last thing you made, you are not a writer. You have a hobby. Hobbies are fine, but don't confuse the two."

I can't remember any details beyond the fact that I remember being pissed off and actually getting into an argument with them about it...and like I said, it's not actually advice, it's just an opinion that was basically made to look like advice, and I would say that this definitely qualifies as bad advice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Jedi Knight Muse said:

So this is what the member of my old forum said in a discussion post:

"I don't care what strategy you use. But if you do not produce finished products that are polished and better than the last thing you made, you are not a writer. You have a hobby. Hobbies are fine, but don't confuse the two."

I can't remember any details beyond the fact that I remember being pissed off and actually getting into an argument with them about it...and like I said, it's not actually advice, it's just an opinion that was basically made to look like advice, and I would say that this definitely qualifies as bad advice.

Omg, that is just plain rude and arrogant. I do see a lot of progress in my writing when I look at older pieces I have written, but in between I have produced stuff that was worse than the thing I wrote before. Testing new techniques and strategies, trying out new genres or themes, focusing on short stories instead of longer pieces for the first time, writing stuff in order to practise one of my weaknesses instead of writing what I am experienced at, ... There are so many reasons why a piece can be worse than the one you wrote before - that fact alone doesn't make anyone a bad writer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/7/2019 at 12:07 PM, Tyrannohotep said:

They tell me that writing PoC characters as often as I do makes me a "one-trick pony" or "monomaniacal" and that I should diversify my characters.

Er... That's a startlingly clueless thing to say.  

... I'm a one-trick pony too.  All my main characters (so far) are human.  Tsk!  I should be ashamed of myself.

 

On 2/7/2019 at 1:17 PM, Manu said:

More bad advice: Write every day. Well, I'm not sure if that advice is really that bad, but I simply haven't managed to write every day for more than a year. And reading that advice over and over again makes me feel bad about myself and my writing, so that piece of advice doesn't work for me right now.

That one sucked me into feeling bad about myself for a long while too.  

I've stopped doing that.  I don't guilt myself for not writing.  It's not helpful.  

I write when I can, and I don't write when I can't, and I've finished 16 novel-lengthed manuscripts.  I can't stop people from claiming I'm not a real writer, but I don't have take them seriously either.

 

Okay, Bad advice:  

I just posted elsewhere some writing advice I got from one particular author.  Her collection of writing rules that I intend to not follow included "Don't USE dialog".  The advice wasn't quite as bad as it sounds on the surface, she didn't mean you couldn't have dialog... you just weren't supposed to have the viewpoint character say anything the reader didn't already know.  Therefore, you couldn't USE the dialog for any of the many story purposes you see beyond being dialog: narrative at a remove of viewpoint, establishing background, characterization...

 

Good Advice:

How about Zelazny's "Trust your Demon"?

I don't remember the exact wording, but the basic idea is this:  Sometimes you don't know why you are writing what you are writing and how it ties into everything, but you're not just writing it to put down words, there's this inner demon urging you to write this thing in particular.  Trust that Demon.  There's usually a very good reason that you just haven't figure out yet.  

(I'm sure the way Zelazny originally phrased it was funnier, though.)

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Best Advice:  So much of it has already been given, I'm trying hard to think of something someone hasn't already said, and I'd like to share a quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  "Easy reading is damn hard writing."  We all have had (I hope) those wonderful sessions where the words and ideas seem to flow free and fast and you feel almost giddy from the act of writing.  I call it a writer's high, and I get quite loopy after a number of hours spent in this state.  People have asked me if I was drunk even. lol  But, for every high there is a low.  When you have no ideas, every word seems wrong, and finishing a sentence feels like a monumental task and a minuscule achievement.  More than once, I've let myself collapse into inactivity because of a low, which is why I'm going to say "Write every day" is the best advice, but I'd like to tweak it, because I too have heard it and felt like a disgusting pile of wretched failure when I wasn't able to do so.  "TRY to write every day.  Even if it's only a few words in a journal about how your day sucked and you had no time to breathe let alone write something you wanted to."  You might not manage to get even that little bit down, but I think maintaining that mental intention to try and write every day without letting it become a bitter obligation is an important balance to find that will ultimately help you write more than you would have ever imagined yourself capable of doing.

Worst advice: This is almost harder than the first one because, again, so many things I would go with have already been said, like "said is dead," all stories must have complete outlines, and any attempt at a hard fast rule applied always and forever.  I mean that second one there pretty much covers 99% of bad advice for writers, I think.  After much consideration, I think I'll go with, "You're wasting your time, and you should do something more constructive."  It was meant sincerely, and I hold no anger toward the person who gave me this advice.  We're actually still friends, but he was wrong.  I derive so much joy from my writing, so much fulfillment, that even if it were only for myself, it would be time well spent simply for my own mental health.  But!  It's not just for me.  I share my work with others, and it brings them joy, fear, excitement, and so much inspiration.  I may not be building houses or making food, but I am contributing much good to my society by writing, and you are too.

On 2/7/2019 at 11:07 AM, Tyrannohotep said:

Worst: People who pay attention to my writing (as well as my artwork) may notice that I have a lot of African or otherwise PoC characters. I've had people give me shit for this, and believe it or not, it's often (white) people who are supposedly more liberal/progressive in their politics. They tell me that writing PoC characters as often as I do makes me a "one-trick pony" or "monomaniacal" and that I should diversify my characters.

I hate that kind of attitude.  I tend to write almost exclusively female main protagonists.  Why?  Because I am following the advice of "write what you know" and "write what you love."  I'm not writing about women with any intention towards feminist efforts.  Sometimes they get in over their heads and a guy saves them, sometimes another woman saves them, and sometimes they rescue a guy who got in over his head.  I try to balance my writing to avoid perpetuating excessive unhealthy stereotypes, but sometimes people (and characters) have a bit of truth to a stereotype (whether it be a "positive" one or the more familiar "negative" ones).  Example for sake of coherency: Stereotype that women are hormonal and emotionally unstable.  I have characters who are on emotional roller coasters pretty much 24/7, others who are stone cold and make the characters around them question if they possess any emotions at all, and most of the rest fall somewhere in the middle.  Stereotypes can be used, but if they get to be front and center for some reason, you need to actively balance them a little with some contrast.

 

On 2/6/2019 at 11:33 PM, XanthussMarduk said:

Worst Advice

 

Two fold

a) "LGBT characters should be characters first, gay second" - I've had this spouted at me constantly, as I write LGBT fiction. Usually by straight people, sometimes by misled LGBT people. The concept sounds fine on the surface, but usually it comes from someone objecting to an LGBT relationship in your work, which is what they define as "LGBT First" : The mention they're gay at all. It's usually followed up with "we don't need to know their sexuality! It shouldn't come up!" All it does is push young LGBT writers into feeling they have to suppress their need to be out and proud in their writing. Real people mention their sexuality, real people get into relationships. Hell, most of the heterosexual work ever written is motivated by romance. Avenging the dead lover is a popular cliche in every genre. But apparently when you're LGBT, you're not allowed romances.

 

I think, no, first I want to say; sexuality is part of a character's make up even more so than physical attributes or skills.  And, for a lot of minorities, the characteristic that defines them as a minority dominates many aspects of their life on a daily basis because every interaction they have with another person or character involves some response to that minority characteristic, whether it be simple acknowledgement, a sharing of that perspective, bigotry, or a guilt fueled excess of support.  The people who condemn writers for shining a light on this fact fail to understand how very pervasively it affects real people every day.  So, you write your LGBT characters as out and as proud as you want, because you are giving real people a character to connect with that many of them desperately need.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×